A bill that would give the Public Service Commission authority to determine the routes oil pipelines would take in Nebraska is on the verge of passage.
The Unicameral advanced LB1 in the special session after sponsor, Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, made changes to appease senators who had raised concern about the legislation. Dubas, opening debate on her revamped bill Thursday morning, emphasized to fellow senators that she made the changes, answering charges that the changes were a product of backroom deals.
“And I want to be very clear that I would never, ever agree to any backroom deals and I’m not about to change that,” Dubas said in her opening statement. “I’ve tried to be very honest and straightforward throughout this entire process.”
Dubas outlined the changes made in LB1, which included the removal of a provision that would instruct the Public Service Commission to avoid “unusually sensitive groundwater”. The changes opted for broader definition and would give the commission more flexibility in deciding on pipeline routes. The commission or the federal government would have to approve an application before a company could exercise the power of eminent domain to obtain easements.
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln warned senators the conversation about the pipeline would change once the legislature approves LB1 as well as LB4 and concludes the special session.
“The tune will change from move the pipelines to stop the pipelines,” according to Coash. “And I encourage you to do your research. I encourage you to look at the groups who would currently say, ‘Move it’ and see what they’re real agenda is.”
The legislature on Friday will debate changes made to LB4, the second bill in the legislative two-step process adopted since Speaker Mike Flood announced TransCanada had agree to voluntarily move the Keystone XL pipeline to avoid running through the Sand Hills. LB4 calls on the state to pay for the supplemental environmental impact study necessary to find an alternative route for the Keystone XL pipeline. It also requires that the governor agree to the new route.
If lawmakers approve changes made to LB4 Friday, both bills would be ready for a final vote in the special session on Tuesday.